Mazama Ridge 2

     This was my second trip to Mazama Ridge this winter. The first trip in February was very warm and sunny. In fact, there was a temperature inversion and it reached 48 degrees at Paradise that day. Lyn and I snowshoed up the ridge, around it, and back. This day was a bit different. Gary and Mark invited me along on a ski trip. Since they are far more skilled than me I brought snowshoes to help in the toughest places. We stopped in Eatonville at the bakery where some other skiers told us that they had already been to the park and the road to Paradise was not going to open until 11:00. This was disappointing news so we had a long breakfast. It was also strange news as Paradise had only 2 inches of snow in the preceding 24 hours. Hoping that the it would open a little earlier, we were back on the road by 9:30. When we reached the park entrance we found that the gate was opening at 10:00 not 11:00. A little snow began at the entrance and deepened as we ascended. By the time we reached Paradise it was snowing. The forecast was for snow showers in the morning and more snow in the afternoon. That shower never stopped all day. By the time we had our gear together and were on the route it was nearly 11:00.

     The good news is that the snow conditions are excellent. A foot of fresh snow fell a few days earlier and fairly low temperatures left it in nice shape. We headed down the Paradise Valley Road along with a moderate number of others. We were very surprised to see a sno-cat clearing out a flat spot on and along the road. Part way down we detoured off the road into the valley bottom. This avoided several avalanche slopes and made for a more interesting route. Farther down we skied back onto the road again. Where the road makes a hairpin turn we headed up the slope. This route is not too steep and after a number of switchbacks we gain about 200' and reached a saddle. Left goes up Mazama Ridge. We headed straight ahead and down. It was steep enough that I put on snowshoes for the descent. My partners had no trouble skiing down through the trees. At the bottom we reached Reflection Lakes. My skies went back on here. We skied across the lake and angled left and up the base of the ridge. Gary and I skied up here last year and I had no problems. The route we took this time worked but was quite a bit more difficult for me.  Still, I kept skies on for the ascent. After one particularly steep section, where I took a short fall, things improved. One spot was flat and sheltered by trees so we took our lunch break. Here I discovered that I had lost my snowshoes. I checked periodically so I knew it wasn't too far back. I tromped through the deep snow down the ridge until I found them. By the time I climbed back up I was more than ready for lunch.
     After eating, we continued the climb. Sections were steep but not nearly as much as down below. As the terrain opened up we could see well ahead and behind us. Two snowshoers came into view behind us, walking in our compressed ski tracks. When we first ascended the ridge before dropping to the lakes we saw tracks heading up the ridge. By angling left we reintersected those tracks. The going was a little easier with tracks to follow. This has been a very good winter for me taking snowshoe trips. It has been a poor one for cross country skiing trips. I felt it on the ascent as I had very little practice this year. Also, a few little used muscles let me know they were there. The ridge was covered with lots of fresh snow. The trees were thoroughly flocked. On my  February trip Paradise had 85 inches. This day the total was 160 inches. The difference was marked at Paradise and also on Mazama Ridge. February felt and looked like spring. In April it felt and looked like winter.

     By the time we reached the descent point, high on the ridge, I was more than ready to head down. I put my snowshoes back on and Gary and Mark prepared for some telemark skiing. The descent is about 500' back to the road below. I had fun running down it in the deep soft snow. My friends seemed to have even more fun skiing down. In short order we were all back on the road. My skies went back on for the last up hill slog to the car. The whole time we were out the snow never stopped. When we arrived back the car had a good 3-4 inches on it.

     For those who have not put their skies or snowshoes away for the season, the conditions at Paradise were very good. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a great destination for a spring trip.